Building walls to tear down barriers

Henkel employees build a house for families in need in Macedonia

Commitment Culture Responsibility Culture Sep 14, 2018

In Macedonia, more than 15 percent of all housing is in urgent need of rehabilitation, and about 70 percent of living quarters are insufficiently insulated. At the beginning of September, 22 Henkel employees traveled to the second-poorest country in Europe for a week to help build an apartment block for families in need with the aid organization Habitat for Humanity.

Difficult living conditions and lack of prospects

On the bus ride to Veles, located about 60 kilometers southeast of Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, the challenge becomes painfully clear: Endless rows of tumbledown houses and scantily built huts line the streets. Over a fifth of the country’s more than 2 million inhabitants live below the national poverty line. Almost half of all young adults under the age of 25 are unemployed. In this country where harsh winters are the norm, energy consumption is four times higher than in industrial nations and gobbles up a huge portion of household incomes. Affordable housing that provides people with decent living conditions is the proclaimed goal of Habitat for Humanity, an international aid organization that has already supported over 13.2 million individuals throughout the world, with approximately 1.3 million construction projects completed since it was founded in 1976. Without decent shelter, according to Rilind Jegeni, a volunteer coordinator with Habitat for Humanity in Macedonia, families are stuck in a vicious circle that has negatively impacts their health, education, environment and sense of self-worth.

Habitat for Humanity in Macedonia - Thumbnail


22 volunteers, 1,600 bricks – one mission

The foundations of the 12-apartment building were already laid by Henkel colleagues last year. Over a five-day period, the new group built on these and worked as a team to construct countless inner and outer walls and prepare the concrete beams for the next story as well as the wooden structure for the roof. Although many of the jobs felt unfamiliar at first, soon enough the construction site was busy as a beehive and revealed quite a few hidden talents.

Die 22 Henkel-Kollegen sind zwischen 24 und 63 Jahre alt und arbeiten in verschiedenen Abteilungen an den Standorten Düsseldorf, Krefeld, Hamburg, Heidelberg und Garching.

The 22 Henkel colleagues are between 24 and 63 years old and work in various departments at the Düsseldorf, Krefeld, Hamburg, Heidelberg and Garching sites.

Dirk Meckenhäuser

Dirk Meckenhäuser …

Wissam Kreidy

… and Wissam Kreidy from the laundry care production in Düsseldorf

Julia Banner, Legal Assistant

Julia Banner, legal assistant

Markus Herzog und Christopher Plante (von links)

Markus Herzog and Christopher Plante (from left) from the plant fire brigade in Düsseldorf

Klaus Piepel

Klaus Piepel from the technical workshops

Jutta Franklin

Jutta Franklin, chemical technician at Beauty Care

Alex Bach

Alex Bach, safety engineer at the Heidelberg site

Anna Henze

Anna Henze, sales engineer at Adhesive Technologies

Sean Jung und Holger Endres (von links)

Chemical laboratory assistant Sean Jung and Holger Endres (from left) from product development at Adhesive Technologies

Thomas Stoffels und Bettina Mehr

Technical Manager Thomas Stoffels and Bettina Mehr, training manager and assistant site manager Hamburg

Helmut Beuster und Arnd Felbeck (von links)

Helmut Beuster, chemical engineer in analytics, and IT consultant Arnd Felbeck (from left)

Klaus Intemann

Klaus Intemann, Head of fragrance production in Krefeld

Susanne Groehn

Susanne Groehn, chemical laboratory assistant at Beauty Care

Harald Neuhaus

Project engineer Harald Neuhaus

Hans-Jürgen Lauer

Service technician Hans-Jürgen Lauer

Sebastian Vonscheidt

IT consultant Sebastian Vonscheidt

Rabea Laakmann und Ann-Christin Wohlfarth (von links)

Rabea Laakmann and Ann-Christin Wohlfarth (from left) from Corporate Communications

At the end of their trip, the Henkel team visited a family who lives in one of the five apartment blocks that have already been completed, and whose living conditions have improved significantly since they moved in.

What remains is a sense of gratitude: for having made a small contribution to improving the life of a person in need in the long term. For enabling social participation. Building walls to tear down barriers.